The Florida Panthers are currently sitting in 1st place in the Southeast Division and 3rd overall in the Eastern Conference. Before the season started nearly all the analysts claimed that the Panthers would finish in the basement once again and miss the playoffs for the umpteenth consecutive season.
What I would like to do is explain my top 5 reasons on why the Florida Panthers are doing so well this season. These reasons are not based on any particular order
#1. Staying Out Of The Box
The Florida Panthers have played very smart hockey all season long, there have been few games where sloppy play have led to games lost. The Panthers are currently ranked 23rd in penalty minutes, in this category the higher you are the better. Compared to Philadelphia‘s league leading 523, the Panthers have a mere 354. On the other hand, the Florida Panthers are doing an excellent job drawing penalties. The total minutes teams have spent in the box against the Panthers is 432 which gives the Panthers a 78 minute differential, which is 2nd in the entire NHL. Even when the Panthers get a penalty, they’re ranked 11th in the league on the penalty kill. The more you stay out of the box, the more likely you are too win, which leads me into the next reason on why the Panthers have been so successful this season.
#2. The Power Play
In the last three seasons the Florida Panthers have ranked no higher than 24th in the league on the power play. This season however, it’s been a completely different story. Although the power play hasn’t been clicking as much as we’d like too lately, the Panthers are still ranked 10th in the league on the power play with a 18.8% percentage. Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov, Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann lead the team on the power play and most of their points have come when they have the man advantage. Jason Garrison has also thrived on the man advantage; 6 of his league leading 10 goals by a defenseman have been on the power play, while Brian Campbell has a total of 14 assists on the man advantage. Hopefully the Panthers can remain in the top half in the league on the power play for the rest of the season.
#3. Solid Goaltending
Before the season I must admit I was a bit skeptical on whether Jose Theodore would be able to fill the void the Panthers lost when Tomas Vokoun (yikes.. double yikes) said adios South Florida. But I was certainly proven wrong. Thankfully, the former Vezina Trophy winner has been more than this organization could ever ask for. With a 13-6-4 record, he is currently ranked in the top 14 in the three main goaltending statistics (Wins, GAA, and Save %), not mention tied for 8th with wins. Jose certainly shows no signs of aging, but even when he needs a night of rest Scott Clemmensen has certainly held his own, with a 3-0-1 record and a 2.06 GAA Scott Clemmensen is proving to be probably one of the top backups in the NHL. Depending on who you are talking too, some people can even go as far as saying that probably the best goaltender on the team isn’t even suiting up every night. Jacob Markstrom saw some early season action and he certainly impressed! Most notably going into Montreal and beating the Canadiens in their home crowd with some amazing acrobatic saves. Goaltending has certainly not been an issue so far for the Florida Panthers.
#4. Smart Coaching
If someone tells you that Kevin Dineen should be the Coach of the Year, you better believe it. This season is just proving that with solid coaching players will get better. Kevin Dineen has brought to Florida a no quit attitude that’s contagious throughout the locker room. The Panthers are tied for 10th in the league in comeback wins after trailing in the first period. During Kevin Dineen’s time in the NHL he was known as a nitty gritty forward that did whatever it took to get the puck into the net, his style of play has certainly translated in the Florida Panthers style of game. Coaches Craig Ramsey and Gord Murphy have both also contributed mightily to the Panthers success. Players need to trust the coaching staff, Kevin Dineen and company have certainly built a strong bond in the locker room so early in the season even with so many new faces.
#5. Points Coming From the Defensemen
All season the Panthers have been getting much needed help in the scoring department from their defenseman. Brian Campbell leads the way with 25 points while Dmitry Kulikov is quietly having a career year with 20 points through 32 games. Jason Garrison currently leads the entire league with 10 goals, while Mike Weaver, Erik Gudbranson, Keaton Ellerby and Ed Jovanovski have all contributed on the score sheets as well. In all the defenseman have totaled 90 points through 33 games this season. Jason Garrison has already gotten to the double digit goal tally which hasn’t been done by a Panther defenseman since Bryan McCabe and Jay Bouwmeester did it back in the 2008-2009 season. What’s even more remarkable is that even though the defense scores so often, they still have time and strength to get back into their zone and defend so well. Which ever goalie is in net has been able to see the puck very well, which is a result of good defending. The defense has been healthy for the most part all season which can lead to great success and consistency on a night in and night out basis.
Thank you for reading, and hope to see you later today at the game against the Phoenix Coyotes!
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God Bless and hope too hear from you soon! WE SEE RED!